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DS Fanboy Preview: N+

My eyes glazed as I stared at my Nintendo DS Lite which cased the finished build of N+. N, my titular ninja avatar, braced his body as he slid halfway down a wall before springing away, using his momentum to snatch three gold coins dangling in midair. I firmly pressed d-pad left, causing him to again shimmy down the wall slowly, carefully, before again leaping for a nearby ledge. Unfortunately, my momentum wasn't enough in this instance. Though little more than a plump stick figure, I had a vision of poor N desperately straining for the tip of the ledge that was at least (at least) a good six feet away before plummeting, plummeting, plummeting -- and eventually exploding in a shower of square-shaped shards as he cratered into the ground.

I grumbled, but the fault was wholly mine, not the acrobatic N's.

"You've got what the indie scene will call the best platforming engine in Flash, ever," said David Geudelekian, producer of Metanet Software's N+. "What N did really well was it presented this incredible platformer with 1000 levels, it was crazy difficult. N the ninja was this lithe, acrobatic guy with all the things developers had learned from other platformers. You can wall jump, you can press along the wall as you're falling to slow your descent. Because it's a full-featured physics engine, momentum can kill you, but if you use a ramp's natural curvature, you might be able to catapult yourself across the level."

Gallery: N+

Continue reading DS Fanboy Preview: N+

N+ knocks it up a notch with new trailers ... BAM

In the spirit of a true ninja master, the perenially popular platformer N+ is still on its merry way to the DS. Many people out there have tried several adventures of the anonymous little hero on the PC, and are better gamers for it. Put it this way -- N+ levels are really, super easy to make, so the DS version features plenty of original creations.

You can check out some of the high-flying gameplay in the new trailer above, along with two more after the break. N+ hasn't been dumbed-down for portable installments at all, and includes a full level editor and downloadable content. If you haven't tried N+ before, it would be in your best interest to slide down to your nearest store on August 28 and hand over the cash for this bad boy. Ninja-style.

Continue reading N+ knocks it up a notch with new trailers ... BAM

Saddle up once again

If you were to come up with a name for the sequel to My Horse and Me, what would you call it? My Horse and Me: The Stable Adventures? Trouble at the Old Mill? My Horse Has Fleas? We won't lie to you -- those are all superior names. However, Atari kept it short and simple, announcing My Horse and Me 2 for the DS

Unfortunately, the original game wasn't the greatest. We have nothing against horse games at all - why, we went nuts for those yappy dogs, and they aren't half as useful. You can't ride a dog, or force it to lug around big bags of cement for construction purposes. Still, something isn't quite right down at the ranch, and the developers can't seem to nail what would make a horse game great fun. We don't know for sure if MHAM2 will be good or bad, but there is one thing we do know -- it'll be bad.

Emulating the gaming world on DS

One of the first things homebrewers do when they gain the ability to run unsigned code on a game console is to see what other console's games they can get running. Although the use of commercial ROMs varies from legally ambiguous (in the case of backup copies of your own software) to unambiguously illegal (in the case of just downloading stuff), emulator programs are perfectly legal -- and capable of running legal homebrew software designed for the consoles. We don't really want to get into the legal and ethical issues. We think that programs designed to run like old hardware are just cool.

Just like every other console, the advent of DS flash cards has brought with it a booming emulation scene. And since homebrew is so easy to run on the DS, and MicroSD cards so copious, it's easy to turn the humble DS into a classic gaming Swiss Army System.

We've outlined some of the most important DS-based console emulators below, along with a ton of lower-profile emulators.

Continue reading Emulating the gaming world on DS

Semiotics training in Driving Theory Training

For people growing up in the U.K. who are familiar with all of this signage, Driving Theory Training looks like it will be Obvious Information Training, at least in the lessons focusing on identifying various road signs. At least, we hope, for the sake of our friends over there. For the most part, the road signs are immediately obvious to people who haven't seen them as well, and some are fairly universal. Others ... we'd need explained to us.

Speaking of things we'd need explained to us, how does matching two identical signs help you learn anything about driving? We suppose it's important to train your ability to look at things. Or maybe this game of looking at signs is an 'entertaining' break from the business of looking at signs?

Gallery: Driving Theory Training

[Via press release]

Promotional Consideration: King of the Monster Ads


Of the three Godzilla: Unleashed games released (Wii, PS2, and DS), the DS version is, without a doubt, the worst of the bunch. That's saying a lot considering that GameSpot described the Wii version as "the worst thing to happen to Godzilla since getting killed by Mothra's babies." In its review of the DS game, Godzilla: Unleashed Double Smash, Nintendo Power opined, "The slow descent in Godzilla games has finally hit rock bottom."

Nevertheless, publisher Atari had a job to do -- sell copies of the game -- and it did its best to win over fans with monster-sized ads befitting of the radioactive monster. Lurch past the post break to see what we mean!

Continue reading Promotional Consideration: King of the Monster Ads

A pendulous new N+ level

We won't be too harsh on IGN for billing this video of N+ gameplay as the "first N+ DS footage." We'll just casually point over in the direction of, ahem, last month. Nonetheless, N+ video is always welcome. This short clip of a bizarre new level is no exception.

This level's devious design centers around a large open area full of gold that is also guarded, panopticon-style, by a sentry, with a set of switches that forces the player to run back and forth across the area multiple times. You could choose to jump up and grab some of the copious gold, but it may slow you down, and that expanse has nowhere to hide from the targeted lasers.

If that's not enough N-Plussery, IGN also has an interview up with Metanet that discusses the DS version briefly.

Gallery: N+

Driving Theory Training is bad in theory

Not many things sound as riveting as driving theory; for example, watching paint dry is probably a lot less exciting. You probably don't need our snark to tell you, though, that Driving Theory Training is an awful idea.

The entire purpose of this British nongame is to prepare people for their driver's license test. As an interactive study guide, it's probably not a bad thing -- but we'd prefer to study the old-fashioned way and save our money. We don't mind edutainment, but the thought of something as dull as driving theory on our DS seems rather unnecessary.

Should you think differently, though, you better hope that you live in the UK. We're sure learning British driving lessons as a U.S. driver would be a bad idea, as you'd wind up driving on the wrong left side of the road. If you are British, though, you'll be able to train in driving theory as soon as this summer.

[Via GamesPress press release]

DS Fanboy interview: N+

Metanet Software officially consists of two people: Mare Sheppard and Raigan Burns. Together they created the original PC game N, and contributed all of the levels (save the contest-winning user levels) to the DS, PSP, and (self-developed) XBLA versions of N+.

Now these two people are in the unique position of seeing their game evolve simultaneously down three different paths (well, almost three, since the DS and PSP games were developed by the same team) on three different consoles. We sent in some questions about this experience, as well as some details about the DS game and its level design -- and they were kind enough to answer those questions! Producer David Geudelekian stepped in in a few cases to answer some questions that went outside Metanet's knowledge (specifics about DS features, for example).

Gallery: N+

Continue reading DS Fanboy interview: N+

Metanet on the cost of N+

Siliconera posted a fascinating interview with Mare Sheppard and Raigan Burns of Metanet, as well as N+'s producer at Atari, David Geudelekian. Some new information was revealed -- specifically, that the DS version contains 8 save slots for stages. The point was made, however, that the level server can also be used as storage. It's simply a matter of, in Wii Virtual Console terms, cleaning out the refrigerator.

They also addressed something that comes up a lot in our coverage of the game: the fact that it costs money. Many people are of the opinion that because the original game was free, it's ridiculous to pay money for the new one. We would agree if not for the fact that N was fantastic and would have been worth whatever Metanet decided to charge. In their own words:

"...the question itself contains the unspoken assumption that a player who enjoyed N is going to be less interested in purchasing N+ than someone who's never played the game. Even if N+ was identical to N but featured a new set of levels, I think anyone who's addicted to N would be interested in having those new levels in a portable format. Beyond the hundreds of new levels, we think enough new bits have been added - most importantly the multiplayer modes - to justify the "+" sign."

N+ video is jaw-dropping

Atari knows how much we love N+, so they sent us some brand-new gameplay footage. We have played the game (though in a much earlier stage) and we still found ourselves arrested by the unexpected beauty of the footage. YouTube isn't the best medium to get the crispness of the video across, but the 60-frames-per-second animation is still there, as is the quick, precise movement of the ninja character. The music is also catchy and retro-techno-awesome.

In addition to the new video, we've updated the gallery with 15 screenshots, each showing off a different level. The levels are crazily varied, showing the strength of the editor (and of Metanet's imaginations).

See also: 2008's Biggest Blips: N+

Gallery: N+

2008's Biggest Blips: N+

Developer: Silverbirch Studios
Publisher: Atari
Release: April

The physics-based platformer N was a unique PC release. While platform games are a staple of the medium, N distinguished itself with its sophisticated physics-engine, minimalist presentation, parkour-like movement and, especially, a level editor that allows fans to design levels with every feature of the official ones.

The game has been updated and remade for release on the DS (and other systems). A bunch of new levels have been added, including contest-winning fan levels. The game features a dual-view in which the bottom screen zooms in on the player and the top screen shows the full level. New enemies and obstacles have been added. A DS-specific level editor has been created that allows for online level sharing just like in the PC version. The question, then, for original developer Metanet and console publisher Atari, is how to convey this in the game's title. N, being so short, brings minimal information about the content of the game. And even gamers familiar with the PC game wouldn't guess from the name N that so much had been added. Thus, it was important to come up with a name that clues gamers into both the inherent ninja-ness of the base game and the updated material in the console version. And, well, it was a long process.

Rejected titles for the DS remake of the PC freeware physics-based puzzle-platformer, N:
  • The Island of Secret Jumping
  • Jump: The Jumpening
  • Platformia: A Synaesthetic Vertical Experience
  • Jumpster! The Jumping Ant in: Big Day Out
  • The Player Dies From Falling Or Being Hit By Some Kinda Robot
  • Quest for Gold Coins: The Tale of a Ninja
  • A+
  • B+
  • You Probably Get That Particular Joke By Now
  • Taco Hunt USA
  • Get Killed By A Thing
  • Large Levels, Small Guy: The Journey of a Lifetime
  • Dr. Platformatic's Ninjadventure
  • Desperation Gymnastics
  • John Madden's Guitar Halo
  • Platforming Training: Learn Precision Video Game Playing in Minutes a Day
  • Ninja Legend: A Ninja's Legend
  • Legendary Ninja: Birth of a Ninja Legend
  • Gold Quest: Lost Coins of the Realm
  • My Pet Ninja
  • Run Run Run Run Jump
  • Extreme Oreo Run: Savor the Action (Atari was exploring possible licenses)
In the end, Atari decided that the best way to get the message of "N plus stuff" across was to give it the obvious name: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. But copyright prevented that, so they went with N+.

Gallery: N+

Bangai-O Spirits Back But can you farm?

N+ & N+ & N+

Metanet Software's Mare Sheppard and Raigan Burns are entertaining. Almost as entertaining, in fact, as their game N. Or maybe even a little more. That's why reading about pretty much any subject on their official Metanet blog or their N+ developer blog on IGN is a treat. And when the subject actually is N+, well, so much the better.

They've posted discussions on both blogs about the three different versions of N+ and how they are, well, different. The Xbox Live Arcade release, in addition to the obvious difference in image quality, is being developed by Slick Entertainment in close collaboration with Metanet themselves and is therefore going to be the most faithful to the original N in terms of feel. The handheld versions will feel slightly different according to the experts: "The style/design (of the DS and PSP versions) in general, as well as the feeling of moving the ninja, are definitely more "influenced by" than "identical to" the flash version," they say.

Apparently the developers have made some decisions that Metanet themselves wouldn't agree with. Way back in August, when I played an alpha version of DS N+, it felt absolutely right. But what do I know? It's a little disheartening to hear that the handheld game isn't exactly as Metanet would want, but we can only hope the changes work out or are so minor that normal folks won't notice.

As a happy side effect of the difference in aspect ratio across the systems, each version of the game has completely unique levels -- around 500 of them. That plus the fundamental N-ness makes pretty much any version you can play a good buy. Especially the DS version, which has the benefit of being on the system this website's about.

Gallery: N+

[Via GameSetWatch]

Read - Metanet Software blog
Read - IGN blog

N+: The Screens of the Ninja

Having previously only seen three screenshots ever of Atari's new DS version of Metanet's platformer N+, we're extremely grateful for any updates we get about the game. Especially when they include screens, and especially when those screens are really cool-looking.

One of the most interesting aspects of N is the variety possible in the level designs, both official and fan-made. Some levels are about precise jumps, some about avoiding enemies, and others hinge on moving in one specific path without deviation. Using a very simple set of elements, all kinds of crazy stages can be made.

Check out the variety of stages on display in these latest screens. Every level pretty much looks completely unlike any of the others.

Atari sheds more light on plan to switch focus to casual games

A couple of days ago, Atari told us of their intention to revise their business approach. They planned to shift their support to the casual market, with a strong focus on Nintendo platforms. It sounded like a good business plan to us, as Nintendo is top dog on the block and their ridiculous hardware sales make it a very appealing company to working with.

So, how much effort will Atari, and parent company Infogrames, put into projects for Nintendo platforms? There isn't any hard numbers, but Mathias Hautefort, executive vice president of publishing and production at Atari, assures us the company is looking at "mainstream, gamer friendly and fun titles, as well as groundbreaking and trendsetting concepts." He went on to add that the company "will be offering several mass market licences for DS and Wii platforms and, in certain cases, casual online versions."

[Via Go Nintendo]

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